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A new lawsuit is calling out voice assistants like Siri and Alexa for always listening

The new lawsuit alleges they’re listening when they shouldn’t be.

amazon echo device with alexa sitting on books
Image: Unsplash

Voice assistants are becoming ever more ubiquitous, as the companies behind them push for them to be a new layer of interaction between users and their services. The always-waiting-for-commands nature might be handy, but a lawsuit going through the federal court system in California warns that it can have major privacy implications.

The lawsuit was brought against Apple and alleges that the company’s Siri voice assistant has recorded private conversations in an improper manner. On Thursday, September 2, a judge allowed the lawsuit to proceed, after Apple had tried to get it thrown out. They did successfully get a portion of it thrown out, which involved users’ economic harm, but the rest can proceed.

That means the claims of Siri turning on without being prompted, leading the voice assistant to record conversations that it shouldn’t have access to, and passing that data to third parties will have arguments heard. That’s a huge privacy concern if found to be true.

The plaintiffs are also trying to get the lawsuit certified as a class action, presumably because of the vast number of owners of Apple devices that would be eligible to join in. Siri is on by default on most, if not all of Apple’s devices.

This is just one of the multiple cases brought against the companies behind the popular voice assistants, with Apple joining Amazon and Google as defendants. The companies all deny their voice assistants are listening to conversations to do anything other than their intended list of things like playing music or setting alarms.

That might not be the whole truth though, as Amazon’s Alexa has been shown to be recording a second-long snippet that it “constantly discards and replaces” until it hears what it thinks is the wake word.

If you’re a voice assistant user and want to delete all of their saved recordings, here’s our guide for the big three, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Cortana is also in there, which Microsoft has basically stopped using.

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